John Thompson Jr., the first Black coach to win the NCAA championship, dies aged 78

John Thompson Jr, the first Black basketball head coach to win the NCAA National Championship, died at his Arlington, Virginia home August 30, a family source tells CNN. He was 78.

John Thompson Jr., the first Black basketball head coach to win the NCAA National Championship, died at his Arlington, Virginia home Sunday night, a family source has confirmed to CNN. He was 78.

Thompson had been suffering from multiple health challenges, the source said. The cause of death is unknown. He was surrounded by family and friends when he passed away.

Thompson coached at Georgetown University for 27 years, leading the Hoyas to their lone title in 1984. He later spoke about being singled out as the first African American head coach to win the National Championship.

“I was very proud of winning the national championship and I was very proud of the fact that I was a Black American, but I didn’t like it if the statement implied that I was the first Black person who had intelligence enough to win the national championship,” he told ESPN.

“I might have been the first black person who was provided with an opportunity to compete for this prize, that you have discriminated against thousands of my ancestors to deny them this opportunity.”

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Taking over a team that had a 3-23 record, Thompson would go on to win close to 600 games, finishing with a 596-239 coaching record. He won the national coach of the year three times and also the Big East coach of year on three occasions.

The legendary coach led the Hoyas to three Final Fours (in 1982, 1984 and 1985), 24 straight postseason appearances (19 NCAA, 5 National Invitation Tournaments), and seven Big East tournament championships.

Seventy five of his 77 players who stayed all four years received college degrees and 26 of his players were drafted in the NBA, including Hall of Famers Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutumbo, Alonzo Mourning, and Allen Iverson.

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Thompson played ball at Providence College and was drafted by the Boston Celtics, winning two NBA titles in his brief two-year career.

He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.